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Home : News
NEWS | Feb. 17, 2021

JSTARS uses AF innovative funding to increase readiness

By Master Sgt. Nancy Goldberger 116th Air Control Wing

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – U.S. Airmen maintaining aerospace ground equipment for the E-8C Joint STARS mission used innovative funding to acquire new aircraft ground generators to save maintenance costs while providing increased readiness for global missions.

These $60,000 specialized aircraft ground generators are the first step in replacing the aging fleet of ground power units, which cost the unit approximately $750,000 and 15.3 thousand staff hours to maintain annually.

“When a GPU fails to keep running during startup, it causes other maintenance problems,” said 2nd Lt. Kandace Brown, 461st Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight commander. “Then, the unit has to be taken into the shop and swapped out to get the jet off the ground as soon as possible. Without our equipment, you can’t fly.”

Airmen from the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th AGE Flight and active-duty 461st AGE Flight, commonly referred to as Team JSTARS AGE Flight, work as a joint force maintaining more than 300 pieces of ground equipment used for the E-8C Joint STARS mission. Roughly 75 percent of their budget goes toward keeping the older ground power units operable, according to Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cliché, flight chief of the 116th AGE Flight.

“Through an amazingly talented group of men and women, they have managed to keep these running,” Cliché said. “I have people exhausting themselves trying to keep these units in play.”

The older ground power units average 25 years, and it takes around five years using the standard method to replace them, according to Cliché.

In 2018, the Team JSTARS AGE Flight leadership set out to fix things to improve conditions and increase mission readiness. The Squadron Innovative Fund program instituted by former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein provided the means to fund the project.

Squadron Innovative Funding is used for Airmen-led innovations that increase readiness, reduce cost, return time to Airmen, or enhance the lethality of the force.

Now, there are enough operable generators to launch flights and still bring ground power units into the shop that require deep repair, according to Master Sgt. Scott Wetsel, flight chief of the 461st AGE Flight. They can be proactive with maintenance instead of reactive.

It was not a fast road, according to Cliché, but due to the teamwork and leadership throughout maintenance and mission support, it was as fast as it could be.

“It’s going to be huge,” said Tech. Sgt. Anthony Walker, AGE familiarization instructor with the 461st AGE Flight. “It’s more efficient, less room for error, a lot easier, and way more reliable.”

Team JSTARS AGE Flight leadership is considering how to keep up the momentum.

“This is definitely something we’ll want to duplicate as we look at other pieces of older equipment that are critical to the mission,” said Cliché.